Ask the Vet – How to build topline in horses


SARAH: “Tips to build
your horse’s topline and how long does it take for a
horse to build a good topline? Are there specific
exercises that would help? Can supplements or different
types of feed help, too?” So a multi-part
question for you. DR LYDIA GRAY: And all
the multi-questions in that question were great. SARAH: Yeah. DR LYDIA GRAY: So you’ll
help me remember them. So the topline– I like to start everyone
on the same page– so the topline is the
top of the horse’s body from the neck to the tail. So it really is a good
word to describe it as the topline of the horse. And we’re talking about muscle. So he, he, she? SARAH: Riley? DR LYDIA GRAY: Riley. SARAH: Could be either. We don’t know. DR LYDIA GRAY: They
are most likely are worried about the
horse’s muscle has gone away. And they don’t say if it’s
a senior horse or not. Because it tends to be very
common in senior horses. As you age, the
muscle just goes away. So the approach sounds right. They’re thinking already
diet and exercise. It turns out that the
research says diet might be the more important factor. Because even if you’re
feeding the horse a complete and balanced diet,
if you’re exercising almost too much the topline can go away. So what’s really
important is to get those key amino acids in there. And by key I mean
lysine, which was the first limiting amino acid,
and methionine and threonine. In fact, one of my
favorite studies– I have so many. SARAH: So many. DR LYDIA GRAY: I call
them each favorite. One of my favorites is– SARAH: It’s because they
don’t know about each other. DR LYDIA GRAY: That’s right. That’s right. Don’t tell them–
–is by Graham-Thiers. And they set out
to show that if you feed older horses
lysine and threonine, their topline improves. What they found was– because
they used as a control group young horses. And when they fed
them, though, the amino acids, all of the horses– every age group–
their topline improved. So what it says is by feeding
key amino acids we can improve the topline in horses. So the way you do
this is– especially if you have grass hay. Grass hay’s not really known
for being high protein. Alfalfa has more. But if you’re feeding
grass hay, you probably need to supplement. Now, you’ll need to be giving
a multi-vitamin or a ration balancer that has protein. Could be fortified grain,
could be a protein supplement itself on its own. And those tend to have– and
I think we have some here. Like here’s one
that’s very popular. It’s Tri-Amino because
it has the three amino acids I mentioned, lysine,
methionine, and threonine. So you can feed that
right with whatever hay and grain or
ration balancer you’re giving to supplement the protein
that is already in their diet. I think one of the questions
was how long it takes. We know that it takes at least
two weeks to see a weight gain in a horse. But that’s more fat. And here we’re talking
specifically muscle. SARAH: I wish it
took me two weeks– DR LYDIA GRAY: Oh god, me too. SARAH: –to see a weight gain. DR LYDIA GRAY: I would
say at least a month. Now, the study I was referring
to was 14 week study. So even over three months. So give it time. And as far as exercises,
I mentioned earlier that diet is more
important than exercise, but exercise is still important. So the recommendations
that are good for building a horse’s topline is– we have an article coming
out soon– on kissing spines. And so the recommendations
for those horses, which is long and low– exercises that lift the
back, lower the neck. So bring up the horse’s topline
like a suspension bridge. Am I using that right? SARAH: Yep. DR LYDIA GRAY: OK. SARAH: Absolutely. DR LYDIA GRAY: So there’s
a Pessoa system or any kind of system like that
that encourages them to use their body correctly. Cavaletti, we always recommend
heel work, transitions. Now we’re getting into
discipline specific, so whether you’re Western or
English or jumping or dressage. It can be sets like intervals. I just did a driving
thing where we did five minutes of walk
and five minutes of trot. Transitions are good. Lateral work– but
in your discipline. So in your sport,
find those things that are going to ask your horse
to use and develop his muscles. Have the supplement or
the good feed in place, and I think you’ll
be good to go. And then just give it time.


3 Responses

  1. Sheri Wilson

    November 16, 2018 6:07 pm

    This was useful, thanks. I work at a horse rescue and have just adopted a horse who came in very thin. He's reached the point where he's put on enough weight to ride and I'm just doing a lot of walking and am hacking out so he goes up and down a couple of gentle hills.

    He's starting to look better along his topline but still has a lot of muscle to build and I'll definitely look into a supplement to help the process.

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